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Schools locked down, parents locked out

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Posted: Friday, November 6, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:16 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Rebecca LaFlure and Jade Ortego

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD – The Clear Creek Elementary School parking lot, lined with rows of abandoned cars, was silent save for the booming intercom, "Seek shelter. Close all doors and windows."

At 1:30 p.m. Thursday, an Army major opened fire at the Soldier Readiness Center, leaving 13 dead and 30 wounded.

Killeen Independent School District officials immediately ordered 10 schools, located at or near Fort Hood, locked down – nobody in and nobody out.

Nearly 2,700 students remained trapped inside their campuses for five hours until Fort Hood officials confirmed that the danger was contained.

"I'm not going to leave without my baby," said Brandy Azocar, who lives at Fort Hood and whose husband is deployed to Iraq.

Azocar, who heard about the shooting on the radio, came to pick up her 6-year-old son from Clear Creek Thursday afternoon and was told he couldn't leave.

"I've just got to make sure the (shooter) doesn't come here," she said.

KISD officials notified parents of the lockdown through an automated call service and posted updates on its Web site.

Because of a scheduled early release, students at six of the Fort Hood elementary campuses had left school before the shooting. Students involved in after-school programs were the only ones left in the building.

KISD officials stopped students at Smith and Audie Murphy Middle schools as they boarded buses home, and told them to go back inside.

"Our foremost concern is for the safety of our students and our staff. At the same time, our thoughts go out to those who were involved, those who have been killed and those who have been wounded," KISD Superintendent Robert Muller said Thursday.

At Shoemaker High School, where 620 students waited inside, administrators and a police officer blocked frantic parents from entering.

"I can't get to my husband, and I can't get to my kid," said Samantha McDonald, an Army spouse who lives at Fort Hood.

McDonald was relieved, she said, because she had planned to be in the area of the shooting that day, but went to lunch instead.

"I wanted to thank God right away that he didn't put me there," she said.

McDonald handed a teacher a cell phone to give to her son.

"With this going on, I think we need to be with our kids," she said. "All I can do is wait."

Spc. Damon Young was turned away when she tried to pick up her 14-year-old son at Shoemaker.

"They don't want anybody's kids to hear secondhand knowledge about their siblings or parents," Young said.

Young, who lives off-post, said she had left work for the day when the shootings happened. She found out from her nephew, who was in the hospital and saw television news coverage.

"I don't think I was in shock 'cause I'm a soldier. I'm more worried," Young said.

Meanwhile, Central Texas College and A&M University-Central Texas officials locked down their campuses from about 3 to 4:45 p.m.

"From what we were understanding, one of the suspects was at large, and we didn't know if they were still on post, so we decided to keep everyone where they were," CTC spokeswoman Barbara Merlo said Thursday. "We're just concerned for everybody's safety and worried about our soldiers."

All CTC evening classes were canceled Thursday. Classes at CTC and A&M-Central Texas main campuses will resume today. A&M classes at Fort Hood are canceled today; officials had not reached a decision about CTC classes at Fort Hood as of press time.

KISD classes will carry on as scheduled today.

"It's an incredible tragedy," Merlo said. "We can try to mend it as best we can, but nothing is going to fix it."

Contact Jade Ortego at jortego@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553 and Rebecca LaFlure at rlaflure@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7548.

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